The New Nuclear Deterrent

What comes to mind when you think of a nuclear deterrent? Mutually assured destruction? Hangars full of warheads? A big red button? During the cold war the United States and the Soviet Union amassed gargantuan arsenals of nuclear weapons, each threatening to rain unimaginable devastation down on the other should they attack. This horrific prospect caused such concern among the scientists involved that many of them joined together to form the Federation of American Scientists in 1945. This was the nuclear deterrent, which ensured that the peace maintained between the U.S. and the USSR after the Second World War was uneasy at best, with the end of the world just a couple of button presses away.

As John MacKinney, Director of Nuclear and Radiological Policy at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), explained at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, DC on July 30th, the nuclear deterrent paradigm of the cold war does nothing to address the new nuclear threats we face. Now, our greatest nuclear danger is not a Soviet sneak attack or any escalating disagreement between great powers, (though the U.S. and Russia still possess vast nuclear arsenals) but the actions of terrorists, with or without the aid of rogue states and other non-state actors.

This might take the form of a radiological ‘dirty bomb’, or it could be a nuclear explosive device that obliterates a large portion of a city and leaves thousands dead. There are many terrorist organizations around the world who would seek to cause this sort of destruction either in the U.S. or elsewhere. While this is not quite the existential threat that Cold War era standoffs posed, in that an attack would only disrupt rather than destroy the country, they are still a credible and serious threat to the safety and security of the world.

Terrorist organizations have motives that are often hard to understand: they do not normally hold territory, and they are not responsible for the security and prosperity of any population – it’s not possible to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against them in the same way that one could against a state. Therefore the doctrine of mutually assured destruction as a deterrent does not apply here.

Does this mean that terrorists can not be deterred? MacKinney argues that they most definitely can be, but that new deterrents are needed. He sets out the premise that all rational actors can be deterred and the principle that it is always immeasurably better to deter a would-be attacker than to respond to an attack. The principles of deterrence are the same as they always have been; to manipulate the enemy’s perception of the costs, benefits and likelihood of success that an attack would have; to sow fear, doubt and anxiety in their minds and make them decide to stay home instead.

This new deterrent must take a radically different form, says MacKinney. It needs to focus on and be tailored to individual targets, not just the terrorists themselves but also enablers such as weapons traffickers, moral legitimizers who might be intellectuals or clerics, affiliates of the terrorist organization, and states that might seek to sponsor terrorism. He cautions that it is important to be mindful of the imbalance of force when the might of a superpower is set against a small group, but says that each of these groups should be sent a perceptible, credible and relevant message that the cost and risk of any action would be unacceptably high. New forensic capabilities allow the source of almost any potential nuclear device to be tracked down, and more and more sophisticated techniques are being employed in investigating the funding for terrorist networks, meaning that those who would facilitate nuclear terrorism are very likely to face the consequences of their actions.

His colleague John Zabko, Assistant Director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office at the DHS, described part of this deterrent, the Global Nuclear Defense Architecture (GNDA). This is a coordinated inter-agency and international program to combat nuclear materials that are ‘out of regulatory control’, that materials that are illegally acquired and transported, a ‘system of systems’ with many layers of protection.

Robert Oppenheimer famously testified to congress that, “If you hired me to walk through the cellars of Washington to see whether there were atomic bombs, I think my most important tool would be a screwdriver to open the crates and look.” Today there are advanced detectors and new technologies to screen for radioactive material, but the fact remains that with a little shielding this becomes extremely hard to detect passively. Zabko uses the analogy of a hockey goalie who needs the rest of his team to help him defend the goal; no one line of defense is 100% effective and multiple lines of defense are needed to ensure security by disrupting every possible stage of an attack.

How can the effectiveness of this deterrent be measured? MacKinney tell us that this is tricky- after all, the non-occurrence of an event can’t be measured. However, there are some methods that can provide an indication, such as intercepted communications between would-be terrorists about the viability of a nuclear based attack, the testimony of informants or captured terrorists, or the actions we see terrorists take.

The logic is simple though: even though terrorists are often fanatical, everyone can be deterred in some way; deterrence is always better than response, therefore governments in the U.S. and beyond should make efforts to deter terrorists from mounting nuclear based attacks.

Publishing Secrets is a Crime, OLC Said in 1942

Newspapers can be held criminally liable for publishing secret information, according to a newly disclosed Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion dating from World War II.  A reporter who writes a story based on defense secrets could be found to have violated the Espionage Act for revealing secret information, as could his editor and publisher.

“A reporter who kept or copied a Navy dispatch containing a list of Japanese ships expected to take part in an upcoming naval battle, and later submitted for publication a newspaper article with information from the dispatch, appears to have violated… the Espionage Act,” the 1942 OLC opinion said.

“Whether the managing editor and publisher of the newspaper that published the article might also be criminally liable under the Espionage Act depends on their intent and knowledge of the facts.”  See “Criminal Liability for Newspaper Publication of Naval Secrets,” Office of Legal Counsel, June 16, 1942.

Under the authority of the Attorney General, the Office of Legal Counsel provides authoritative legal advice to the President and to executive branch agencies. The 1942 OLC opinion has no binding legal force, and it does not necessarily represent executive branch views today. But it fills in a gap in the legal genealogy of leak prosecutions.  It also highlights the latent possibility under the Espionage Act of criminalizing not just leaks but also news reports based on them.

Although not named by OLC, the reporter whose actions prompted the opinion was Stanley Johnston of the Chicago Tribune. Based on a classified document that was shared with him by a naval officer, Johnston wrote a front-page story in the Tribune on June 7, 1942 identifying the Japanese order of battle and implicitly revealing that U.S. intelligence had been able to decrypt Japanese military communications. A grand jury was convened to investigate the matter but was disbanded at the request of the Secretary of the Navy in order to avoid further publicizing the disclosure.  (Gabriel Schoenfeld recounted the episode in his 2010 book Necessary Secrets.)

“The reporter’s conduct in taking and copying a dispatch of immense importance — as this one seems obviously to have been — is characterized by real turpitude and disregard of his obligations as a citizen,” the OLC opinion said. “It is hard to believe that any jury or judge would take a sympathetic view of his case, or seek to free him on any narrow view of the facts of the law. He thoroughly deserves punishment.”

In an assessment that may resonate in some quarters in the networked world of the following century, the OLC opinion said that the newspaper’s broad distribution aggravated the original offense to the point of evil.

“In this case, the vast circulation of the newspapers involved puts the reporter in a position where he must pause and consider the consequences of his act. At best, his conduct was reckless and negligent, rather than specifically intended to do harm. Yet the negligence and recklessness were of such magnitude as to be fairly characterized as criminal and evil…,” the OLC opinion said.

*    *    *

The Office of Legal Counsel opinion on potential criminal liability for newspapers appeared this month in an extraordinary new collection of previously unpublished OLC opinions written between 1933 and 1977. (Formal publication of OLC opinions did not begin until 1977.)

“This volume begins what the Office of Legal Counsel intends to become a continuing supplement to its primary series of published opinions, covering all years during which the Office has been in existence,” according to the Foreword by Virginia Seitz, the current head of OLC, and Nathan A. Forrester.

The contents of the volume are wonderfully rich and interesting.

A 1937 OLC opinion concludes, with evident regret, that there is no legal basis for censoring the broadcast of a speech by Leon Trotsky. “The Federal Communications Commission does not have statutory authority to censor the telephone transmission from Mexico into the United States of a speech by Leon Trotzky.”

A 1974 opinion recommends that the FBI exercise its discretion to release files concerning a New Left figure even though it may have a legal right to withhold the files:

“In the last analysis, the only policy reason for withholding most of the requested documents is to prevent a citizen from discovering the existence of possible misconduct and abuse of government power directed against him. In my view, this is not only no reason for asserting the exemption; it is a positive reason for declining to use it, even where other reasons for asserting it exist. The obtaining of information of this sort is perhaps the most important reason for which the Freedom of Information Act exists.” The opinion was signed by then-OLC head Antonin Scalia.

The “legality and practical consequences” of a U.S. blockade of Cuba are considered in a 1962 opinion, and the use of federal marshals to protect civil rights workers in Mississippi is discussed in a 1964 opinion.

Other OLC opinions treat the invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, Watergate, and many other topics.  The whole collection is an unexpected feast of historical and legal scholarship that is surprisingly accessible to non-specialist readers.

“Notwithstanding that some of these opinions may no longer be good law, our hope is that all will prove to be of value to legal practitioners and legal historians. This volume was a labor of love and respect for the history, traditions, and people of OLC and the Department of Justice,” the OLC editors wrote.

Marine Corps Commandant Accused of Improper Classification

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos exercised “unlawful command influence” in an attempt to punish Marines who allegedly urinated on enemy corpses in Afghanistan in 2011, attorneys for the Marine defendants said.  And then Gen. Amos improperly classified information in an effort to conceal his own misconduct, the attorneys said.

“The evidence shows that the CMC [Commandant, Marine Corps] could not resist the temptation and decided to further the concealment of his unlawful intentions by ordering…, without proper authority or basis, the imposition of a secret classification upon the testimony and materials disclosed by the previously unclassified investigations of the alleged desecration cases,” defense attorneys said in a motion filed last week.

It’s a sordid story all around. What makes it interesting here is that a Marine Corps official warned in 2012 that the classification action was a mistake that could backfire against the Marine Corps if it ever became public.

“If this goes to the next level of administration or judicial action, there are some additional considerations that a lawyer, versed in classification issues, might be able to use to shoot holes in our whole process and bring the whole decision making process into question,” wrote William Potts in an internal email quoted in last week’s motion.

Improbably enough, he then cited the FAS Project on Government Secrecy and me (at page 19). A potential court-martial of the defendants would “spread us all over the media; would probably get Steven Aftergood, Project on Government Secrecy, involved…. He’d make us look silly if he supported a defense contention that the video was improperly classified.”

There is a creaky old saying to the effect that you should not do (or say or write or email) anything “if you wouldn’t want to see it on the front page of the Washington Post.” A similar principle might be applicable in the world of national security classification.  If you couldn’t justify the classification of information to an outside reviewer, then you probably shouldn’t classify it.

Unfortunately, in the normal course of business, there are few occasions on which any official is ever called upon to justify his classification action to an impartial, independent observer.  That’s just not the way the classification system is currently structured.  But it could be.  Increasing the number of opportunities for independently evaluating classification actions would quickly serve to improve the quality and legitimacy of classification activity.

For more background on the Marine Corps case, see these stories in Military Times and CNN.


FAS Roundup: July 29, 2013

Dynamics of government secrecy, U.S. sub forces, Syria and much more.


Lessons Unlearned:  Syria is the first WMD-armed country to descend into civil war. How the United States and the world handles Syria will unmistakably affect future dealings in similar situations in which hostile countries possess WMDs.  In a new article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Senior Fellow on State and Non-State Threats Mr. Charles P. Blair writes to get the WMD assessment in Syria right, U.S. and world leaders will have to break free of the past habits of obfuscation, unsound scientific forensics, and withholding of conflicting data.

An Inquiry Into the Dynamics of Government Secrecy: At times, it seems that the national security classification system is static, monolithic and hopelessly inert. But in fact it is relentlessly in motion, with new secrets constantly being created as old secrets are gradually released. In a new paper published byHarvard University’s Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, Director of the Government Secrecy Project Mr. Steven Aftergood investigates the factors involved in the classification of government information.

Nonproliferation Misinterpretation: In a new op-ed in The National Interest, Adjunct Senior Fellow Dr. Yousaf Butt writes that if  U.S. policy makers are interested in making headway towards a negotiated solution with Iran they must clarify their understanding of the NPT. There is no agency or international body tasked with checking compliance with the NPT, and  no enforcement arm of the NPT.

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Court Eases Prosecutors’ Burden of Proof in Leak Cases

In a new interpretation of the Espionage Act, a federal judge made it easier for prosecutors in leak cases to meet their burden of proof, while reducing protections for accused leakers.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the prosecution in the pending case of former State Department contractor Stephen Kim need not show that the information he allegedly leaked could damage U.S. national security or benefit a foreign power, even potentially.  Her opinion was a departure from a 30-year-old ruling in the case of U.S. v. Morison, which held that the government must show that the leak was potentially damaging to the U.S. or beneficial to an adversary.  (In that case, Samuel L. Morison was convicted of unauthorized disclosure of classified intelligence satellite photographs, which he provided to Jane’s Defence Weekly. He was later pardoned by President Clinton.)

“The Court declines to adopt the Morison court’s construction of information relating to the ‘national defense’ insofar as it requires the Government to show that disclosure of the information would be potentially damaging to the United States or useful to an enemy of the United States,” Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote in a May 30 opinion. The opinion was redacted and unsealed (in partially illegible form) last week.

The prosecution must still show that the defendant “reasonably believed” that the information “could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation” and that the defendant “willfully” communicated it to an unauthorized person.  But it would no longer be necessary for prosecutors to demonstrate that the information itself could potentially damage national security or benefit an adversary.

The new ruling was a boon to prosecutors and a blow to the defense in the Kim case and perhaps other leak trials to come.

The Kim defense had argued that the requirement to show that the leaked information could cause at least potential damage was essential to a proper understanding of the Espionage Act statute.  Without it, defense attorneys argued, the Espionage Act would become something like an Official Secrets Act, enabling the government to punish disclosure of anything that was designated classified, even if it was improperly classified.  They cited a concurring opinion in the Morison case stating that its interpretation of the law was necessary “to avoid converting the Espionage Act into the simple Government Secrets Act which Congress has refused to enact.”

In a subsequent reply, the defense added that “The requirement that disclosure of the information be ‘potentially damaging’ is ‘implicit in the purpose of the statute and assures that the government cannot abuse the statute by penalizing citizens for discussing information the government has no compelling reason to keep confidential’ .”

“The Court should decline the government’s invitation to reject the leading Espionage Act cases of the past quarter century,” the defense urged.

But prosecutors insisted successfully that, contrary to the Morison court and other Fourth Circuit cases, there is no requirement in the statute to show that disclosure could cause harm. “By its terms, Section 793(d) [of the Espionage Act] does not require the United States to prove any harm, whether potential or not….”

In her ruling, Judge Kollar-Kotelly accepted the prosecution view.

“In cases like this which involve the alleged unauthorized disclosure of classified information, the Morison approach invites (if not requires) the jury to second guess the classification of the information,” she wrote in the newly disclosed May 30 opinion.

Although a review by the jury of the information’s classification might seem like a wholesome and necessary check on overclassification, Judge Kollar-Kotelly said it would lead to an “absurdity” — “The trial of the individual charged with unauthorized disclosure would be converted into a trial of the classifying party,” as she put it, citing an earlier precedent.

Moreover, “the Court was unable to locate a single case outside the Fourth Circuit employing this standard,” she wrote. The Morison case was tried in the Fourth Circuit, as was the AIPAC case, the Kiriakou case, and the still-pending Jeffrey Sterling case.

By imposing such a requirement, the Kim prosecutors said, the Fourth Circuit had arguably offered “more protection to defendants than required by [the Supreme Court].”

So for defendants who are accused of leaking classified information, it seems that the Fourth Circuit would be the most advantageous location in which to be tried.  Stephen Kim is on trial in the DC Circuit.

Several other rulings (and underlying pleadings) in the Kim case were unsealed last week, and they were discussed in the Washington Post (“Attorney for accused leaker says other U.S. officials may be responsible,” July 25) and Legal Times (“In Leak Case, Prosecutors Allowed to Keep Information Secret,” July 25).

Did Justice Roberts Reshape the FISA Court?

There have been 71 federal judges who have served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review from 1979 until the present.  A complete list of the Court’s membership, prepared by the Court’s Administrative staff, was obtained by the New York Times.  Although this comprehensive listing was not formally secret, neither had it been previously been made publicly available.  A copy is posted here.

Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, appointments to the Court are made by the Chief Justice of the United States. An analysis of the Court’s membership by the New York Times found that during the tenure of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a higher number of Republican judges had been appointed than in the past — 10 of the current 11 members, compared to 66% under previous Chief Justices — as well as a higher number of judges who had once worked for the federal government — 50% versus 39% in the past. See “Roberts’s Picks Reshaping Secret Surveillance Court” by Charlie Savage, New York Times, July 25.

The premise of the story is that Chief Justice Roberts’s selection pattern is not merely a statistical curiosity but that it has altered the performance of the court, or “reshaped” it, to favor the executive branch.  The Times does not directly embrace this view, but attributes it to “critics,” including Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who is proposing legislation to change the way the Court’s members are appointed.

“Viewing this data, people with responsibility for national security ought to be very concerned about the impression and appearance, if not the reality, of bias — for favoring the executive branch in its applications for warrants and other action,” Senator Blumenthal told the Times.

But the claim that Chief Justice Roberts’s appointments have “reshaped” the Court to favor the executive branch in applications for warrants does not withstand a moment’s scrutiny.  That’s because the Court’s approval rate has always hovered near 100% — both before and after the Roberts era. No discernable reshaping has occurred.

In fact, based on the available data, one could perhaps say that the Court has exercised greater scrutiny lately than it once did. In 1979, in the Court’s very first year of operation, all applications for surveillance were approved without modification.  In 2012, the most recent year, no applications were denied outright, but 40 of them were modified by the Court.

A more substantial concern is that the function of the FISA Court has expanded in the past decade beyond the routine consideration of surveillance applications, and now extends to the secret interpretation of government authorities under the law.  This is indeed an area when ideological predispositions could manifest themselves in reshaping the applicable law.

Whether that has actually happened is impossible to ascertain since most of the Court’s opinions, including those that the Court itself has deemed “significant legal interpretations,” remain classified and unavailable.

But the notion that the behavior of FISA Court judges can be reliably inferred from the political party of the President that appointed them, or from their past service in the executive branch, is cynical and vaguely insulting.

The Times names Judge Reggie B. Walton as one of the current Court members appointed by Justice Roberts who previously served in the executive branch (working “on drug and crime issues for the White House”) and who is therefore purportedly more likely to defer to the interests of the executive.

But the suggestion that Judge Walton has been unduly deferential to executive authority is not borne out by his record.  Years ago I filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the National Reconnaissance Office that was heard by Judge Walton. I was seeking agency budget information that the NRO refused to provide, withholding it under an intelligence agency exemption for “operational files.”  It was a dispute between a multi-billion dollar agency and an individual plaintiff (me) who was not even represented by an attorney.  This was a perfect opportunity for a judge to display deference to an executive branch intelligence agency, particularly since there was no conceivable ideological or political incentive for the court to rule in my favor. But instead, Judge Walton denied the NRO’s motion to dismiss the case, and he granted my motion to compel disclosure of the requested budget information. It was not the outcome that a cynic would have predicted.

My experience with Judge Walton may be exceptional.  Or maybe not.  One of the academic studies linked from the Times article to support the proposition that judges appointed by Republicans are more likely to rule in favor of the government actually reported that “even in the most controversial cases, Republican and Democratic appointees agree more than they disagree.”

The practical lesson is that to focus on the membership of the FISA Court is probably not the best way to regulate the Court’s conduct or to affect its performance.  Assuming that there is only a limited amount of political energy available for addressing FISA policy, efforts to reform the Court would more profitably be directed toward declassification of Court decisions, and reconsideration of the statutory framework that the Court operates within.

After Action Report – Second PfPC Working Group Workshop on Emerging Security Challenges

Earlier today, the Partnership for Peace Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes released its After Action Report to experts who participated in the Emerging Security Challenges Working Group Workshop #2. The PfPC has given permission to the Federation of American Scientists to publicly release these findings.


Lessons Identified / Policy Recommendations

Societies need critical knowledge in advance of technological or scientific changes that may affect security and the state, and yet, few efforts exist to satisfy this need.

Technological change is faster than educational and legal change: Military, defense and policy makers at all levels broadly need education in technology literacy, risk recognition and mitigation.

Emerging Security Challenges (ESC) educational products for policy and military leaders should bring together a mix of practitioners of science and technology and experts from history and the social sciences.


Unanimous acceptance of need for military and defense curriculum and training in the field of emerging security challenges.

Leadership from Bulgaria, Turkey, Ukraine and Poland promised to seek to establish centers of excellence or hire talent in the field of emerging security challenges.

Acceptance that definitional debates are important but must be by-passed in order to facilitate partnership educational mission in ESC; group trust has been generated sufficient to make that possible.

Three publication products planned, two for summer 2013 delivery.

Planning underway for next two workshops and support for Senior Executive Seminar at the Marshall Center.


Government systematically underestimates the potential disruption made possible by technology and scientific advances. Policy makers not only need concrete information and recommendations from which to operate, they also need to decrease stove-piping of issues – a holistic approach to emerging technologies will help.

With emerging technologies and their associated capabilities, new and disruptive capabilities can readily fall into the hands of adversaries or ill-willed individuals. Ubiquitous advances and cost reductions in computing, navigation and hobbyist technologies are apt to reduce barriers to remote and other forms of warfare. Policy makers need to have an increased awareness of the dual-role of emerging technologies and their unintended consequences and possible threat to national and international security.

Alliance risks include force interoperability when a technological leader pursues radical change while domestic political tolerance and blowback for such new technologies encourage further stress and ambiguity in relations.

Projected US defense spending and cuts in Alliance defense budgets are likely to result in new challenges for NATO, particularly as increased high technology defense developments could alter the balance between partners’ capabilities, budgetary plans, and interoperability.

As warfare is outsourced to only those who are “near peers” in technology and societal views shift, decreasing political tolerance for alliance security efforts may stress alliance unity. Support for the traditional transatlantic compact (European political support in return for US military guarantees) may be seen to run counter to individual ‘social contracts’ within the alliance member states.

Policy makers need to be aware of the risks for societal disruption via technologies. Technologies regularly have two sides. For example, information technologies can easily create crowds and amplify social unrest (i.e. Arab Spring lessons via social media networks), yet they are not as useful for controlling the results – the demonstrations, violent protests, etc. Another example can be demonstrated with an everyday use device: Smart Phones. Low price navigation in smart phones is helpful to people and commercial interests, yet these phones have everything needed to acquire and navigate to potential targets.

Military and defense education products are sorely needed at present to extend understanding into risks and opportunities in ESC.

Fractured Consensus Seen in House Vote on Surveillance

An amendment to prohibit intelligence agencies from performing bulk collection of records such as telephone metadata was narrowly defeated in the House of Representatives yesterday by a vote of 205-217.

Although the amendment by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) was not adopted, its near-passage on a bipartisan basis signaled an extraordinary loss of congressional support for the national security establishment and for the bulk collection of records revealed by Edward Snowden in particular. It is doubtful that any intelligence program can continue for long with 49% of House members opposed to it.

The House debate had a certain theatrical quality because it reflected divergent value judgments more than opposing factual claims.

For proponents of the intelligence program, which is conducted under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, it is a lawful and constitutional effort.  In itself, they insist, the collection of telephone records by the government no more involves “spying” on Americans than does the collection of such records by the telephone company– which is to say, not at all. And the program has been justified, they say, by its success in detecting and preventing terrorist attacks.

To opponents of the program, however, intelligence collection of records concerning private persons who are not suspected of any crime is an impermissible infringement on the Fourth Amendment. Opponents also disbelieve that the program has contributed significantly to combating terrorism, or else they would implicitly forego any additional margin of security that it provides. Moreover, they say, the bulk collection of records deviates from the language and the intent of the law.

Even in victory, supporters of the current program do not believe the matter is settled.  Rep. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a principal defender of the existing program, said he would consider further proposals to mitigate privacy concerns.

“I will pledge to each one of you today and give you my word that this fall, when we do the Intel authorization bill, that we will work to find additional privacy protections with this program,” he said.

Resources on Manhattan Project, FOIA, FISA Reform

The Department of Energy has undertaken a new effort to publish information and documents concerning the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bomb. The effort will notably include “the entire thirty-six volume Manhattan District History. Many of the volumes have been declassified” and are now online. “The remaining classified volumes are being declassified with redactions, i.e., still classified terms, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs are removed and the remaining unclassified parts made available to the public. The volumes will be posted incrementally as review and processing is completed.”

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, has issued a report on legislation to amend the Freedom of Information Act.  As detailed in the report, the pending House bill “amends FOIA to provide for more proactive disclosure of records, encourages enhanced agency compliance, and improves the FOIA process for both agencies and requesters.”

Critics of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, including some former Court members, have lately suggested that Court procedures could be improved if they allowed for an advocate to argue against the government’s applications for surveillance and to contest proposed changes in the Court’s interpretations of the law. This proposal was originally presented nearly twenty years ago by the late Kenneth C. Bass at a 1994 hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on “Amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”

China’s Currency Policy, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service which Congress has withheld from online distribution to the public include the following.

China’s Currency Policy: An Analysis of the Economic Issues, July 22, 2013

International Illegal Trade in Wildlife: Threats and U.S. Policy, July 23, 2013

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Natural Resource Damage Assessment Under the Oil Pollution Act, July 24, 2013

Analysis of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), July 22, 2013

Proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP): In Brief, July 23, 2013

Hague Convention Treaty on Recovery of International Child Support and H.R. 1896, July 15, 2013

Kazakhstan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests, July 22, 2013